Myra’s Story: Review
Actress: Fionna Hewitt-Twamley
Star Rating: ****
Assembly Rooms Ballroom
54 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2LR
Written by Brian Foster
Edinburgh Fringe Review Date: 11th August 2019
Myra’s Story can be seen at the Edinburgh Fringe from 1st – 25th August 2019, 12:00pm (90 minutes) at Assembly Festival. Age category: 14+ (strong language/swearing). £12-14.
If the answer is blowin’ in the wind what was the question?
Myra’s story is a one woman tour de force performance from Fionna Hewitt-Twamley. For the duration of a football match without a half-time interval the audience are taken on a journey through the life of middle-aged homeless Irish alcoholic woman Myra McLaughlin living rough on the streets of Dublin. The Assembly Rooms Ballroom in Edinburgh was virtually sold out for this Brian Foster Production for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with almost 350 people packed in to see this lunchtime play.
What’s so impressive is not just the high quality of Hewitt-Twamley’s acting , but the deftness and subtlety by which she seamlessly switches between roles, be they her father or other men and women in her life. The story has depth, pathos, sadness, yet oodles of humour, or craic, too as Myra would call it. The stories re her neighbour, Tina the Tap, always on the scrounge, were well conveyed and it was wonderful to see her play a wide array of various larger than life characters who coloured her life such as heavy smoker Big Bridie and her husband Jimmy the Tadpole, innocent little Norris the Gnome, and cross-eyed Matilda and her partner, Dublin’s hairiest man, Christy.
There are plenty of references to the demon drink, referred to as the beast. Her maiden name was Hennessy, which is also, of course, a well known brand of brandy. It was probably no co-incidence that, of all popular Irish names, writer Brian Foster chose that as Myra’s maiden name. You watch with fascination knowing that the beast has got its vice like grip on her, but you become engrossed to find out if she will escape the beast’s clutches and what next will happen in her life.
Without a fightback aided by support those in her life (or rather not in her life) or from calling on a higher source, the beast’s arch enemy, Jesus Christ, you begin to wonder how this will turn out for Myra. We see little evidence of a practical or deeply spiritual side to Myra, though one is alluded to with the frequent references to Bob Dylan’s hit protest song ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.’ You watch to see whether or not she will be able to summon up the strength and will power to take back control of a life that’s spiralling out of control. Who will fight her corner if she she can’t fight for herself?
Journalist Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry best distilled the meaning of ‘blowin in the wind’ in The Week (2016): The mysterious answer to the song’s questions — “The answer my friend / Is blowin’ in the wind” — brings to mind nothing if not the ruach, the Bible’s Hebrew name for the Spirit of God, which means wind, breath, and spirit. Genesis describes how “the Earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the ruach of God was hovering over the waters.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus teaches Nicodemus that the Spirit of God is like the wind, which “blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes.”
Despite the simplicity of the stage setting – one woman, one public bench, it was the acting and the pace of the story that kept you watching and listening intently to every word uttered from Myra’s lips. You didn’t need any more to to the set than that as Hewitt-Twamley vividly brought to life all the characters with all their colourful backstory purely via dialogue, acting drunk and periodic audience interaction.
However, at 90 minutes, with barely a minute separating Act 1 from Act 2, it felt overlong and could have been shortened by around 15-20 minutes. Maybe an interval would have been fitting so that the audience could join Myra and get a drink too – non-alcoholic of course for this was a 12noon performance!
Full credit of course must go to the writer Brian Foster who created the story and provided the raw material for Hewitt-Twamley to work with. It was some feat for Hewitt-Twamley to be able to remember so much dialogue without another actor to interact with. That’s rare indeed to perform in a solo production. I can barely remember what I had for dinner a couple of days ago never mind remember a 45 page script!
The show concluded with a richly deserved standing ovation for Hewitt-Twamley a standing ovation. That was only the second time I’d seen one given all Fringe (Simon Evans: Dressing for Dinner was the other). That was testimony to the strength and power of the moving performance.
If the answer is blowin’ in the wind what was the question I asked at the start? This can be interpreted in a number of ways, but I would suggest the question would be what would be the solution to Myra’s addiction, to life’s myriad of problems? Aside from the practical – AA, counselling, friends and family etc… I would go back to Bob Dylan and posit that “the answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind.“
© Tiemo Talk of the Town
- Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews
- Shakespeare for Breakfast – 13th August 2019
- Dickens for Dinner Satisfies the Appetite – 10th August 2019
- Bob Dylan’s Biblical Imagination – The Week, 14th October 2016